287. Airgram From the Consulate General in Hong Kong to the Department of State1



  • China and the United Nations: Some Thoughts

Note: The Department, and especially the Secretary, has encouraged the submission by Foreign Service Officers of ideas and comments with respect to United States foreign policy or operations overseas. This report, prepared by a political reporting officer here, suggests an approach that might be taken toward the Chinese representation issue at the United Nations. It is realized that there may be many complications involved which are not addressed here, such as Charter revision, and the following is intended more as a vehicle for stimulating discussion and consideration of possible alternatives available to the United States than as a specific policy proposal. End Note.

The Soviet Union has three votes in the United Nations General Assembly. No amount of legal or political semantics can demonstrate that the Soviet Union had an inalienable right to three votes. It is difficult to conceive of the Ukraine or Byelorussia as being anything but a part of the Soviet Union. However, every member nation of the United Nations accepts the idea of the Soviet Union having three votes, because they realize that this was the price paid in order to gain Soviet participation in the United Nations.

The existence of this anomaly could form the basis for a solution to the problem of United Nations representation for divided countries and, specifically, the China problem. The solution simply stated, would be—“One Nation, Two Votes”.

The formula “One Nation, Two Votes”, translated into terms of the United Nations Charter would be “One Nation, Two Members”. While this sounds like a strange concept, it is exactly the situation that exists as far as the Soviet Union is concerned. “Soviet Union, Three Votes” is translated into terms of the United Nations Charter as “Soviet Union, Three Members”. The United Nations, by the very existence of the three members of the United Nations that represent the Soviet Union or parts thereof, has in effect said that a “member” is that entity which the United Nations decides to make a member without regard to traditional [Page 499] concepts of “sovereignty” or of “a state”. The degree of freedom which the United Nations has in this area is underlined even more by the fact that the Ukraine and Byelorussia were Charter Members of the United Nations. If the founding of the United Nations was based on such a practical political compromise, then there should be no reason why one of the United Nations’ stickiest problems could not also be resolved by a similar solution.

The Case of China

A formula embodying the principle of “One China, Two Votes” would involve giving Peking one vote and Taipei one vote in the General Assembly. Again, in terms of the United Nations Charter, it would be translated into “One China, Two Members” following the Soviet example. In having two members representing China, the United Nations would not be addressing itself to the sovereignty claims of either Peking or Taipei, just as it has never addressed itself to the question of sovereignty with regard to the Soviet Union, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia. If in the future, Peking and Taipei are able to reach an accommodation between themselves, then a unified China would in reality be represented by two votes—just as in reality the Soviet Union is represented by three votes.

In addition, a General Assembly resolution on Chinese representation might also make the following points: 1) Although China is represented in the United Nations by two members, this fact in no way endorses the concept of Two Chinas. 2) There is only one China; at present China is not unified; however, it is the expectation and hope of the United Nations that China will eventually be unified. 3) The United Nations, in the interest of world peace, calls upon the two divided parts of China to seek reunification through peaceful means.

A “One China, Two Votes” solution tends to avoid problems inherent in a “Two Chinas” policy or a “One China, One Taiwan” policy. Neither Peking nor Taipei want either of these policies to become accepted in the international community. However, third countries, motivated by a desire to find a compromise solution to the impasse on the China problem in the United Nations, may be forced into advocating such policies.

The solution of the China problem in the United Nations is made more complicated by the fact that China is a Permanent Member of the Security Council. A “One China, Two Votes” solution to Peking’s admission to the United Nations does not, of course, solve this problem. Neither, however, does any other solution short of excluding Taipei from the United Nations. However, it would seem quite clear that once Peking becomes a member of the United Nations, no matter what formula is finally used, any solution, short of awarding Peking the Security Council seat, is inherently unstable.

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Naturally, at the present time, both Peking and Taipei would undoubtedly oppose a “One China, Two Votes” policy in the United Nations, but it is a solution more in keeping with their respective views on the China question than others now being considered and could conceivably represent an acceptable formula to them at some point in time.

Other Divided Countries

One possible way of making such a solution palatable to both sides is through example. The concept of “One Nation, Two Votes,” again following the Soviet example, could be extended to three other divided nations that are not now in the United Nations. Germany, Korea and Vietnam are important, albeit divided nations whose absence from the United Nations weakens the organization itself. All three countries have aspirations for eventual unification. Present political conditions prevent these three countries from being members of the United Nations. One major component of these political conditions is the fact that they are divided countries waiting for an eventual solution to the question of unification.

Of the three countries, Germany would seem to be the country most likely to be susceptible to a “One Nation, Two Votes” solution to admission to the United Nations at this juncture in time. Such a procedure again would not address itself to the question of sovereignty— as it has not in the case of the Soviet Union—and it would be based on the assumption of eventual unification as outlined earlier in the case of China.

If a solution for admission of both West and East Germany to the United Nations on the basis of a “One Germany, Two Votes” concept could be worked out, the example and experience gained by such a step would be useful in educating the member nations as well as Peking and Taipei as to the feasibility of such a step with regard to China. The same applies to Korea and Vietnam.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM. Confidential. Drafted by Richard A. Holmes, approved by Richard D. Nethercut, and cleared by Robert W. Drexler. Also sent to USUN.